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NSF PR 03-76 - July 24, 2003

Video - Lost City Hydrothermal Vents, Possible Incubator of Early Life

ALVIN maneuvering underwater

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Video Credit: National Science Foundation & University of Washington

Discovered just two years ago, Lost City has the tallest vents ever seen -- the 18-story vents at that site dwarf most vents elsewhere by at least 100 feet. Water is circulated through the vent field by heat from serpentinization, a chemical reaction between seawater and the mantle rocks on which Lost City sits, rather than by heat from volcanic activity or magma, responsible for driving hydrothermal venting at sites scientists have been studying since the early 1970s.

NSF funded the expedition to the mid-Atlantic.

If hydrothermal venting can occur without volcanism, it greatly increases the number of locations on the seafloor of early Earth where microbial life could have started. It also means that explorers may have more places than previously thought to look for microbial life in the universe, as reported in a paper published in the July 25th issue of Science.

For more information contact:
Cheryl Dybas
National Science Foundation
4101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 1245
Arlington, VA 22230

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